Superman Rebirth Trade Post: Action Comics & Superman

When it comes to DC Rebirth books, the Superman group, the Superman group stands apart. I’m not saying that as a longtime and devoted Man of Steel fan (though I am), but because the headline character is actually the version from the previous universe, as explained in Superman: Lois & Clark. Some time after that book, the New 52’s version of Superman seemingly died before DC launched their Rebirth initiative. In Superman Volume One: Son Of Superman and Superman: Action Comics Volume One: Path Of Doom, the previous incarnation of Superman leaves the black-and-silver suit behind, takes up the more familiar colors and makes his presence known to a world still reeling from his predecessor’s death. Continue reading Superman Rebirth Trade Post: Action Comics & Superman

World’s Finest Trade Post: Lois, Clark & Robo-Batman

superman-lois-and-clarkI know it’s October and I should be finishing up the Wally Wood EC book I started or the volumes of Creepy and Eerie Archives I got from the library, but I just couldn’t resist reading this pair of books from the library. So let’s jump right in! Continue reading World’s Finest Trade Post: Lois, Clark & Robo-Batman

Team Up Trade Post: Superman, Batman, Galactus & Darkseid

superman dark knight over metropolisSuperman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (DC)
Written by John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern & Jerry Ordway, drawn by Art Adams, Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod & Ordway
Collects Action Comics Annual #1, Action Comics #653-654, Adventures of Superman #466-467 & Superman #44

While Hal Jordan might not have been my early bread and butter as a comic reader, Superman and Batman definitely were. I love both heroes, so seeing them team-up in this interesting period (1990) where they didn’t really trust each other and definitely weren’t friends was a trip, especially because I came around later and saw them team up in JLA.

The first comic in this series is a classic that brings both heroes together. It’s written by John Byrne with art by the crazy-awesome Art Adams, but I’ve read it a handful of times and the surprise is a bit gone so I skipped it (well, I flipped through it cause, daaaaaag, it’s pretty). The rest of the book builds off of the title three part story, but kicks off two issues before that to add context. Part of that context involves seeing the origin of Hank Hall, the man who would become Cyborg Superman, one of the most important characters of my childhood!

The actual “Dark Knight Over Metropolis” story had been built up to for a while in the Superman comics because a woman who worked for Lex Luthor stole his Kryponite ring and also figured out who Superman truly was (but Lex didn’t believe her and ruined her life). She gets murdered, the ring gets stolen and winds up in Gotham where Batman gets clued into it. The work the case in and out of costume and eventually, Superman entrusts Batman with the Kryptonite ring (another iconic moment that I always heard about when I started reading a few years later, but didn’t actually read until this point).

This book is steeped pretty heavily in the world of Superman books of this era, much of which is covered in the Man Of Steel trades (which I, of course, adore). I don’t know how easy it would be for a new reader to just jump right in and read these issues, BUT I’m guessing that the dynamic between Batman and Superman in this comic is a lot closer to what’s going on in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice than the Super Friends we later came to know and love.

darkseid vs galactus the hunger Darkseid Vs. Galactus: The Hunger (DC & Marvel)
Written & drawn by John Byrne

Of the three books in this post, Darkseid vs Galactus: The Hunger is actually the one I read as a kid. The mid 90s were actually a really great time to see characters from Marvel and DC crossover, first with the DC Vs Marvel series and then the All Access books and one-offs like this one. At the time, I knew the basics of Galactus and the Fantastic Four and probably knew a bit about Darkseid, Apokolips and the New Gods, but zero clue that these were all Jack Kirby creations coming together.

Though over-written in the grand tradition of both Kirby and Byrne, this super-fun book finds the World Devourer trying to turn Apokolips into his latest snack thanks to Silver Surfer discovering the world of awfulness and sorrow.

There’s a twist at the end of this book that blew me away as a kid and stuck with me ever since. In fact, it was the ONLY thing I remembered about this book that I first read 21 years ago. Again, it’s both reflective of Kirby’s work as well as Byrne’s writing of the mid 90s, so I’m not sure how accessible it is, but if you have even the remotest interest in Kirby’s worlds and always wondered what would happen if they collided, track this book down!

New 52 Trade Post: OMAC & Green Arrow

OMAC volume 1 OmactivateOMAC Volume 1: Omactivate (DC)
Written by Dan DiDio & Keith Giffen with Jeff Lemire, drawn by Giffen & Scott Kolins
Collects OMAC #1-8

Do you ever get a group of trades and pull the ones you’re least interested in to the top and read those first? I can’t say it’s something I’ve done a lot of. When I was a monthly comic reader, I’d move the books I was most excited about to the top and get to the rest later. But, I recently came into a stack of New 52 books and wanted to read a few of the more random ones first just to see how they were.

One of those books was OMAC. I wasn’t super excited about the creative team or the fact that yet another one of Jack Kirby’s creations was getting yet another make over. But you know what? I was pleasantly surprised by this series, which only lasted the 8 issues collected in this book. This new version actually stands for One-Machine Attack Construct unlike the One Man Army Corp of the original series (which I can’t believe I read three years ago at this point). Set in the new DCU, the human component this time is a scientist named Kevin who gets moved all over the chessboard by Brother Eye to do his bidding.

Basically, this whole series is a love letter to Kirby, or at least that’s how I’m looking at it. Giffen is clearly paying homage to The King’s style with his pages, all of which feature at least one of Jack’s trademarks: squared off fingers, Kirby crackle or the four panel pages he seemed to like. You could also say that some of DiDio’s story elements take their lead from Kirby’s. Not everything is explained super well and things just kind of happen, much like they did in Jack’s DC books.

I like the approach I mentioned above, but it does have its fair share of problems. There’s basically three levels you can enjoy this book on. Let’s called the homage one level. Then there’s the more basic level of a superhero smash ’em up bonanza which it definitely delivers. But, the third layer is a lot less satisfying. I mean, we’re never even told why Brother Eye chose Kevin. Worse than that, it’s never explained why Brother Eye (who annoyingly says “Eye” instead of “I”) even needs a human-hosted OMAC. Why doesn’t he just use a robot? I wish these questions had been answered in these eight issues but they weren’t. I can still enjoy the story that is told on the page, but it definitely could have been more satisfying.

KEEP/DUMP: I’m going to keep this one for now. Not sure if it’ll stay in the collection after a re-read later on down the line, though.

green arrow volume 1 midas touchGreen Arrow Volume 1: The Midas Touch (DC)
Written by Dan Jurgens, J.T. Krul & Keith Giffen, drawn by Jurgens & George Perez with Ray McCarthy & Ignacio Calero
Collects Green Arrow #-6

I fell in love with the character of Green Arrow when Kevin Smith brought him back from the dead and was on board with the series up until a few years ago when Judd Winick left Green Arrow & Black Canary. I even started collecting the previous volume by way of lots on eBay and back issues found at conventions. As such, I’m always leery when I experience a new version of the character.

I haven’t written about it much on the site, but I actually really enjoy Arrow on The CW because they gave Oliver Queen a really solid, interesting and believable back story that I can sink my teeth into and enjoy. I can’t say that’s the case for this New 52 series, though. Sure you’ve got rich Oliver Queen dressing up in a superhero costume and running around fighting supervillains, but why?

This is something that I think some of the New 52 books completely failed on and others nailed really well: the question of why this book exists. I understand that DC and Warner Bros. wanted to continue with a book that had done fairly well before the relaunch and also wanted something that eventual fans of the series could read if they were so inclined, but in the book itself, what’s the point of it existing?

Much of the plot of the first arc in this book focuses on younger supervillains who get their jollies committing crimes and sending that out over the internet for people to watch. It’s the next level up from schoolyard or bum fight vidoes in a world with super powers. For some reason, this aspect of the story never grabbed me. It didn’t feel super new (Will Pfeifer did something sort of like this in the amazing HERO). I think I didn’t care about that part of the story because I didn’t care about Ollie. Sure you see him in his civilian identity blowing off the guy who runs the larger Queen family company, but that’s not enough. This is supposed to be a brand new universe where anything can happen, you can’t rely on old stories for that, you need to put enough on front street to suck me in or get me with one crazy hook and unfortunately Green Arrow had neither of those.

It did have one issue — #6 — drawn by Ignacio Calero who looked like a more stylized JLA-era Howard Porter. I’d like to see more from him in the future.

KEEP/DUMP: This one’s going up on Sequential Swap where it will hopefully get me another book.

Books Of Justice: Justice League America By Dan Jurgens

Justice League America JurgensJustice League America By Dan Jurgens
Written and drawn by Dan Jurgens with Dan Mishkin, Dave Cockrum, Sal Velluto,
Collects Justice League Spectacular #1, Justice League America #61-77 & Annual #6 (personally collected and bound)

The Justice League was a different animal when I started reading comics. Back in the late 80s/early 90s, the team tended to consist of one major league character and then a lot of others that the writer was able to really grow and change. Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis were the guys who really took this idea and ran with it post-Legends. And, while that run on the book is beloved by many (including me) the rest of Justice League America does not seem to be fondly remembered by many people up until the time that Grant Morrison relaunched the concept with the Big Seven in JLA.

However, I am not one of those people. I’m sure it’s at least in part because my very first JLA line-up included Superman, Fire, Ice, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Maxima and Bloodwynd. Plus, between his run on this very formative run for me and his hand in the Superman books of the day, Dan Jurgens became a very important creator for me.

At some point in my collecting career, I decided that I wanted to get every issue of every Justice League series from the time frame between Crisis and JLA. I’ve set my mind to collect many series’ like this, but the Justice League books are the only ones I’ve ever completed. While reading through some stuff in the past year or two, I came to the Jurgens issues and was really happy to find that I still enjoyed these stories. So, with all that in mind and a few extra bucks in my pocket I decided to get Jurgens’ run on Justice League America bound.

To give a little context, Jurgens picked up the book after a huge storyline called Breakdowns that essentially toppled both Justice League America and Europe, things were never really the same after that, partially because Giffen and DeMatteis departed at that time. With Batman and Martian Manhunter both leaving the team for various reasons, Superman reluctantly decided to lead the team. At this point, Superman was still in his late 80s/early 90s mode of “very powerful hero” but not the nearly unbeatable god he eventually became.

These issues find the League facing off against the Weapons Master, Starbreaker, Eclipso (in the annual), Doomsday, alternate reality versions of the Satellite Era League and of course each other. I don’t know if I’d call any of those stories — aside from the Doomsday stuff — classics, but I did still find them enjoyable. I like how Jurgens doesn’t always have them winning one particular way. In one adventure, Beetle uses his smarts to get them all out of a jam, in another case it’s all brute strength. As much as I love Morrison’s run, it feels like so many of those stories ended with “And Batman beat them because he’s super effing smart” (or maybe that’s just how my memory remembers it).

In the wake of Superman’s death, the team got several new members, many of whom are considered Z-Listers, but I thought Jurgens did a good job of making them interesting, something he did with each and every member. We’re talking about Agent Liberty, the then-new Black Condor and the kid version of The Ray. Oh and Wonder Woman became the de facto leader.

At this point in Jurgens’ run, he did a really cool alternate reality story called Destiny’s Hand, a four-parter that envisioned a world where the JLA started taking on more and more power and became more like fascists. Part three of this story was actually probably the first JL book I ever read and re-reading it brought back crazy memories. I remember facial expressions, story beats and panel layouts from this issue, I must have looked through it a million times after getting it in a random multipack. Anyway, I was super confused by this comic back in the day and had no idea what was happening, but it reads a lot better all together.

Before leaving the book, Jurgens also told the origins of Bloodwynd, a character I still probably don’t understand 100%. Actually, I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on him now, finally, but I liked that he finished that story thread before leaving the book.

I guess there’s no real question about whether I liked this book or not. Hell, I made the thing myself, didn’t I? But, in addition to the huge nostalgic factor for me, I like these comics. Jurgens did a good job continuing on the sense of humor that characters like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold featured in the Giffen/DeMatteis run. He also did some really fun superhero stories with villains that, to this day (as far as I know), aren’t overly used. Sure, these aren’t the kinds of threats you’d see in a JLA comic these days, but you’ve got to remember that, if one of those kinds of threats popped up in the mid 90s, you’d have yourself a crossover, not an arc.

So, yeah, I like these comics. Heck, I might be in love with a few of the issues, having known them longer than almost everyone in my life. But I also think they’re good comics, the kind that you might be able to pass to someone, though you’d probably have to answer a lot of questions.

The Box: Venom Lethal Protector #3, Brave & The Bold #157 & Adventures Of Superman #473

To be completely honest, this installment of The Box is a bit of a cheat. First off, I read a pair of terrible comics I literally have nothing to say about. I won’t say what they were, but they were both mid 90s Image books that did nothing for me. I don’t want these posts to be completely negative and I also want to have some fun, so those books went right into the recycle bin. I also actually specifically purchased the latter two books at a flea market, so they’re not as random as the other picks, but we’ll get back to that next week, I’m sure. Did I succeed at picking out good comics for myself to read? You’ll have to read (or scroll) on down to find out.

The one random comic from this post is Venom: Lethal Protector #3 (1993) written by David Micheline and drawn by Mark Bagley. Venom’s not a character I’ve ever really been into, but there was always something a little cool and dangerous about seeing these comics in the pages of Wizard or on comic stands when I was looking for the books I wanted.

This issue really has all the components you’d expect from a 90s comic starring Venom. He cracks wise while beating up on bad guys wearing a LOT of armor. There’s actually a solid story underneath all that with a guy trying to get revenge on Venom for his dead son.

Overall, it’s a fine story. I think it’s hard to take a book with so many spikes and pouches seriously these days, but that was the mode of the day. On the other hand, though, Bagley’s art doesn’t look as jagged and crazy as a lot of the popular artists of the day. He is just a damn solid, classic style artist that looks rad no matter what he’s drawing. I won’t be keeping this comic nor will I be tracking down the rest of the issues, but it was a fun read for a few minutes and now I’m ready for the next thing.

I chose this comic for one simple reason: I wanted to see how Jack Kirby’s Last Boy On Earth found his way to Gotham to team-up or tussle with Batman. Brave And The Bold #157 (1979) was written by Bob Haney with Jim Aparo artwork and unfortunately, it’s pretty boring. The story revolves around a new super powered enforcer on the scene and Batman trying to figure it out. However, since we know that Kamandi’s in the issue and doesn’t show upfor a while it’s not much of a surprise that it’s him.

The worst part though is that the scenes between Kamandi and Batman just aren’t that fun or interesting, I just kept thinking about how much cooler this issue could have been or how rad the team-up between the two of them was on the wonderful animated version of this comic from a year or two back. It also sounds like the BATB issue where Batman goes to Kamandi’s time was a lot more interesting.

I think even if I wasn’t comparing this issue to those other stories that I wanted, I still would have hoped for less Batman-talking-to-people and more Kamandi-punching-people. I’m just simple like that, I guess.

It was neat seeing Aparo draw Kamandi, though.

I grabbed this issue of Adventures Of Superman #473 from 1990) because it’s not part of the wonderful Man Of Steel trade series, it has Green Lanterns in it and that Dan Jurgens cover sure looked neat!  Written and drawn by Jurgens, the issue was great looking, but it was the kind of story I’ve read before. Basically Hal Jordan’s being held captive by a giant alien who crashed and remained underground for many years. He sens out a distress signal for Superman who winds up teaming with Guy Gardner. Unfortunately, this is also the version of Guy that really grates on me: the asshole loudmouth who never shuts up. I’m more a fan of the confident, but layered version Beau Smith wrote in Guy Gardner: Warrior.

So, while the main story felt like something else I’d read (another Superman story? something with the Fantastic Four?) I was actually more interested in what was going on back at the Daily Planet because this was right after Lois and Clark got engaged the first time. I came to Superman a few years after this when he was killed, but a lot of what was going on in issues from this time were referred to when I came on and even well after Supes returned.

While I wasn’t really ennamored with this issue, I will hold on to it. I kind of want to fill all the post Crisis Superman holes that exist between the existing trades and when I started collecting. Just thinking about that makes me a bit sleepy.

Trade Post: Time Masters Vanishing Point (DC)

TIME MASTERS: VANISHING POINT (DC)
Written & drawn by Dan Jurgens
Collects Time Masters: Vanishing Point #1-6

I’m generally conflicted about how I feel about Time Masters Vanishing Point. On one hand, it’s a really interesting addition to the Booster Gold/Rip Hunter mythos that Dan Jurgens has been working on since he created Booster in the 80s and up through his run on Booster Gold, a book I enjoy. On the other hand, the book never lives up to its mission of finding Batman in the time stream, because that was being done in Return of Bruce Wayne (which I haven’t read all of yet). So, essentially, it’s like paying to see a movie featuring only a few side characters that don’t have much to do with the actual story, but might be appealing to a few people in the room, like if there was a Star Wars flick just about Chewbacca and C-3PO hanging out. It might have fun character moments, but overall it doesn’t really matter to what’s going on in the larger story, assuming the larger story here is the one of Batman’s return.

The idea behind the book is that Hunter and Booster are trying to find Batman after the events of Final Crisis, but they’ve also got Superman and Hal Jordan along for the ride which leads to the typical, “You can’t save those people because they’re meant to die now,” arguments which are boring and tired to me. I can’t be the only one, right? The story also suffers from another plot point I’ve seen a million times where the time travelers get thrown into different periods where they encounter obscure characters some people might be familiar with. In this case it’s Claw and a female warrior named Starfire, but not the Titan. I don’t care about those characters and therefore don’t really care about the adventures featuring them.

However, I really liked the bits that could have just as easily been shown in Booster Gold. Rip talks about his childhood, growing up as the SPOILER son of Booster. See, Rip is Booster’s son, but Rip as an adult is teaching a younger version of Booster how to become a Time Master. There’s also some moments featuring Supernova and Booster’s sister Michelle (who was also plucked out of time before her death, it gets confusing, I know, but it winds up making sense) that I really enjoyed.

I also really enjoyed Jurgens’ artwork, as I have been for quite a while. He was one of the classic Superman artists back when I started reading comics. I think of his style as very iconic and have a fondness for it but also appreciate how he creates these big bold figures that always look as impressive as they’re supposed to be. He has “iconic” down pat.

Overall, it felt like this whole “Let’s find Batman” idea was foisted upon the Booster Gold creative team which might explain why the big story beats are kind of rote and boring while the more specific, character beats are rad. The only bit that bothered me was Hal Jordan’s relentless haranguing of Booster for being a fame whore. How can you be all high and mighty when you’re the guy who tried to restart history? I don’t care if it was because you were possessed, YOU STILL DID IT! I thought that Hal characterization was off, but my buddy Ben has always thought he was a jerk, so maybe it does fit in. I think I’ll be keeping this volume around just because it will work as a good bookend to my Booster Gold collection, but if I read through that book again down the line and don’t enjoy it, I’ll probably bounce them all.